One of the fundamental philosophies in the practice of Culinary Medicine is the idea of sustainability. Sustainability can come in many forms. There is individual economic sustainability, of which one aspect is to be able to buy sufficient ingredients without breaking the bank. There is individual taste sustainability, where the ingredients and the corresponding flavors, tastes, and textures appeal to you. After all, if it doesn’t taste good, who the hell wants to eat it day in and day out?
Then there are concepts of sustainability that play into the interconnections we all share with each other, our community, and ultimately with the planet. These forms of sustainability can involve things like buying locally produced comestibles and products. If they are raised where the ingredients meet other criteria, like organic vegetables or their equivalent, then this form of action can potentially reduce the carbon footprint. Buying strawberries in Alaska in the deep winter of January under the guise of ‘eating only plants’ to save the planet is an exercise in self-indulgent virtue signaling and farcical.
But buying seasonally and locally, when products meet expectations, not only brings sustainability into the equation from a planetary point of view, but it also adds economic stability by supporting such practices and enriching the economy of the community. The more aspects of sustainability we can incorporate into our everyday practice, the more it becomes a win-win for all of us as individuals, as a collective, and as members of planet Earth. That is how we strive to practice Culinary Medicine.
When we follow this path, we empower ourselves as individuals to make a difference. However, the reality is that the rate limiting step for a majority of us returns to our individual economics. We have to be able to afford what we want to be able to eat. In terms of practical application, that often means purchasing our local items in season and in bulk. This is quite simply when we often get the very finest of things like produce at the very lowest cost.
And from such necessity, can spring invention. Our incredible local farm had a huge abundance of three different types of bok choy; all at a price that was impossible to refuse. So an hour later staring at a couple of sacks stuffed with bok choy I found a bit of inspiration.
There were some wonderful Mandarin miso marinated duck breast that was left over from a previous dish. This could easily be pan seared. The leftover duck carcass from which said breast was removed was placed in a pot with copious bok choy and other vegetable trimmings, some aromatics from my herb garden, and water. A few hours later the kitchen was perfumed with the scent of a beautiful, fresh duck stock (we previously covered using leftovers to make a homemade stock in our Practical Culinary Medicine Webinar Series).
The bok choy was trimmed and the greens reserved for a future dish. The stalks were parboiled until tender, cooled in an ice bath, and then trimmed into thin strips. These were lightly coated with a homemade teriyaki sauce and placed under the broiler for just a few minutes to achieve a light glaze and subtle char.
The stock was combined with some soy sauce (you can just add soy sauce to match your taste preference) to create a fragrant base. To this was added some seasonal vegetables and the bok choy strips which functioned as a kind of bok choy “ramen noodle” in the context of this dish. Top it all off with the duck breast, fresh red sorrel, and pickled radish; and you have a completely locally sourced meal with tempting and exotic Asian-style flavors enwrapping it. Sustainable at all levels – except how long it stays in the bowl!